Shrimp cocktail starter and puccini tonight? Little Lloyd Webber with linguine? London pubs and cafes are increasingly incorporating live music and performances into their menus to lure reluctant patrons out to eat.
The trend is being reflected in other British cities, which now include classical music and musical theater, as the cost of living crisis threatens to keep customers at home. Jazz musicians are no longer the only regular performers at London restaurants such as Castle’s Toulouse-Lautrec. Even circus performers participate in small stages set up at some restaurants.
Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) CEO Michael Kill said: “People want value for their money, so if you can offer more in music than just food, you are more likely to attract them.”
The high cost of concert tickets, combined with the hassle of booking tables for rushed and expensive meals on both sides of the performance, makes it a reason to stay instead. In contrast, just having him spend a relaxing evening at one venue offers greater value. High energy prices and pandemic shutdowns have also put many live venues at risk or put them out of business.
Rafaello Morales is one of those who are hopeful of this growing appetite. His customers want a meal paired with music over his sound in the background. A musician and conductor, he is the founder and musical director of Fidelio Cafe in Clerkenwell, central London. “Classical music is not an art form that should be enjoyed in a confined environment.
“It can be intimate. It helps that many people who don’t go to concert venues and opera houses are now willing to go to restaurants and coffee bars.”
His café on Clerkenwell Road is near Piano Works on Farringdon Road, a music bar where punters pick bands to play.
Opened three and a half years ago, Morales’ business has built a reputation for attracting some of the best international classical players, including violinist Nicola Benedetti and pianist Imogen Cooper. “The first challenge was convincing people that we could perform at such a high level,” he said.
Up to 50 guests can book either drinks or food in advance. “Fortunately, we got buy-in from some big names early on. Starting a restaurant is still difficult, but the money from the restaurant helps with the sustainability of the model. We aim only for breakeven, making money from private events such as weddings, birthdays and corporate events.”
Performance standards are very high and the recital ends before the food is served.
Last October, The Theater Café Diner also opened at The Theater Café on the West End. At this two-story restaurant on Shaftesbury Avenue, you can enjoy your meal with a seemingly impromptu performance by wait staff trained as musical theater stars. Step into the central raised aisle or through the chairs and tables and they’ll be showstoppering before returning to order.
Even more amazing is the authentic acrobatic show that West London circus venue Aeronaut brings to your table. The shock is also served as a regular side dish at the established Faulty Towers Dining Experience, which will move from the capital to a Manchester hotel at the end of February.
Most of the live venues strive to set the scene despite their size limitations.Both Theater Cafe and its diner sister are adorned with theater memorabilia, and Fidelio Cafe does as well. approach. Setting like a coffee house. And people are drawn in when they see pictures of Shostakovich and Brahms on the walls. they become interested. ”
For NTIA, these smaller venues are a sign of lower disposable income and a 40% increase in venue heating costs, Kil said. “People have to think outside the box. We are witnessing the ‘doughnut effect’ in our recreational activities. People are moving closer to where they live and avoiding expensive city centers.
“We really need these independent and creative businesses because they are at the heart of every field.”